The moment I read the response to

THIS SUNDAY’S PSALM [15], I immediately recalled some wonderful instructions taught by the prophet Isaiah {54:2}:

Enlarge the limits of your home,

spread wide the curtains of your tent;

let out its ropes to the full

and drive the pegs home.

The Psalm provides a fairly comprehensive personality profile of the one who abides in the Lord’s tent, and also details the high standards required.

We have to remember that in that contemporary age a person’s ‘tent was his castle’ … it was home, and home was the location for those who belonged and carried their share of the burden – every member was involved, with clear, precise and specific obligations. There was no room for idlers or loose canons.

So, we come again to words of Pope Francis in one of his recent reflections at the daily Mass. He said that “the provisional makes us afraid of the definitive.” Christian discipleship, in other words, should never involve any ‘hedging of bets’ …. it works for the moment, let us jog along with what is happening and working for the moment. In other words the provisional appears to be working so why worry about anything more definite? Well this would be the time to enlarge our vision, the limits of our small, comfortable ‘home’ as it is. We have to spread our wings. open them up as wide as possible – and only then drive the pegs in deeply and firmly. SEEK THE DEFINITIVE AND DO NOT BE COMFORTABLE WITH THE PROVISIONAL

Take a look at

OUR OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [GENESIS 18: 1 – 10a]. Abraham “sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.” See his response to the immediate, the provisional! The Patriarch opened up, enlarged, and went about setting everyone bustling. It was a bad time of the day. It was in “the heat of the day.” Abraham must have recognised that the situation offered possibilities of things unknown to him … why else would three strangers appear at that time of the day? After all, even in those days it was only mad dogs and Englishmen who were out and about in the midday sun!? In addition, do not overlook the fact that Abraham did not merely rouse himself reluctantly because of demands of hospitality …. NO! He bustled about {“hastened into the tent … ran to the herd”}, aroused Sarah and servants, and set them immediate, urgent, tasks {“make ready quickly … hastened to prepare it”}. Then, Abraham merely “stood by them … while they ate.” The patriarch was prepared to wait and see what developed – but he had made preparations for the development.

Unlike Martha in

TODAY’S GOSPEL READING [LUKE 10: 35 – 42] Abraham was not “distracted with much serving.” I often wonder if Martha would not have presented Jesus with an excellent meal, as I am sure it was, even if she had taken a few minutes to talk with Jesus and listen. She was possessed with the provisional while Mary sensed the possibility of the definitive. On the other hand, Abraham managed to combine both the bustle and the waiting!

It is unfortunate that the Gospel translation used at Mass renders Mary’s choice as “the good portion.” Common English usage infers that Martha’s portion was bad! This is not so. Too often prayer, meditation, and ‘listening’ can be used as an excuse to avoid activity and involvement – both of which are essential elements of Christian discipleship. A more incisive translation provides us with the words “better portion,” and gives the clue to the lesson Jesus teaches: “Martha, Martha: you’re overanxious and disturbed about many things; there is need only for one thing. You see, Mary has chosen the better portion.”

{NICHOLAS KING, SJ} Father King, in his commentary notes that “the gentle repetition of her name softens any lurking rebuke.

Our Christian activity should never be overanxious or disturbing (to ourselves or others!), and it must always be rooted in a prayerful waiting and listening. The definitive is always more important than the provisional. Martha needed to enlarge the limits of her home and stretch a little more. Mary was busy driving in the tent pegs more firmly!

It may well be possible for us to underpin these, sometimes conflicting, needs with words from

OUR NEW TESTAMENT READING [COLOSSIANS 1: 24 – 28]. ” … to make the word of God fully knownthe mystery hiddennow made manifest.” Like Abraham and Mary we need to fully know the word and unveil the mystery of it – otherwise we run the risk of becoming overanxious and disturbed! Most things, then, become provisional – very little definitive.